Clapham Junction could rightly be the epicentre of South London. Goodness knows just how many times I’ve passed through on the train over the years, often humming one of my favourite songs, ‘Up the Junction’ by Squeeze from 1979, even today – wait, actually today.
In 1979 I was a fresh-faced 18-year-old, running up and down the line via ‘the junction’ to sticky-floored, beer-soaked music venues in town such as the Marquee Club on Wardour Street and The Venue in Victoria, where I’d slavishly follow bands such as The Cure, The Joe Jackson Band, OMD, Depeche Mode, Sniff ‘n’ the Tears and The Pretenders. Ah, those were the days….
Clapham Junction in 1979 wasn’t exactly the place to be. London was gripped by savage spending cuts, endless rolling strikes, power cuts and, not surprisingly, mass discontent. Anarchic spiky-haired punks angrily stalked the streets (and the trains) and that least anarchic of pollies Margaret Thatcher had become the UK’s first female PM.
Now however, Clapham has been largely gentrified, almost out of recognition in certain parts. With its close proximity to the river and ready access to central London property prices have surged and the locals now have a decidedly non ‘soufff’ London accent.
Despite being in Australia for 35 years (!) I feel at home around these parts, so it’s been great to be able to spend a few weeks getting reacquainted with my old haunts, except sadly the music venues, as both have been demolished, but the Commons (Wandsworth, Clapham and Streatham) are still great wind-swept open spaces in what would otherwise be endless dense rows of terraces, whilst Norwood Park has sweeping views over the rooftops to the London skyline.
We just spent a week in what is now quaintly now known as Clapham Old Town, probably a real estate agent’s posh designation. Its village-like atmosphere is made up of grand common-side houses (not all converted into flats) rows of quaint Georgian terraces and the occasional grand villa. Stylish oldy-worldy stores look like they’ve been there forever, but probably haven’t, whilst the pubs are more gastro than the beer-swills of old. But all of this looks marvellous in the cold late afternoon light with jets streaking in the sky and plane trees shivering their bare bones.